KEANSBURG, NJ – LT Governor Kim Guadagno’s announcement announced she is running for the GOP nomination to be Governor of New Jersey in November’s election came as no surprise but with great endorsement.
However, when the announcement was made at La Playa restaurant on Beachway Tuesday morning to great rounds of applause, many congratulations, incredible shows of support and approval and no surprise, it was really one of her most ardent supporters, Leo Cervantes, who stole the show at the restaurant he owns where the announcement was made to an overflow crowd. The Mexican born entrepreneur was quick-witted, jovial, sincere, and his enthusiasm was contagious in a room packed with so many fans and supporters of the lieutenant governor it was impossible to move around or find a seat.
Cervantes introduced the lieutenant governor because he wanted to tell everyone in La Playa, one of two restaurants he currently owns, how Guadagno had not only helped him get started in a second business but also came to his aid when Chilango’s, his Highlands restaurant on Bay and Seadrift aves., was one of numerous local businesses devastated by Super Storm Sandy. “We only had about six feet of water in our restaurant,” Cervantes told the Herald after the announcement meeting, “so we were ready and willing to get back to business, to get back to providing a service, to get back to working hard. And she helped us do it.” The restaurateur said he was not as badly affected as many homeowners or businesses, but Guadagno responded to everyone who sought her help.
It was when he owned a small business in Long Branch that Cervantes said he first received Guadagno’s help. Hearing about a property in Highlands, it was she who helped him secure the necessary loans to purchase the property. “I didn’t even know I was a minority,” he quipped, “but when I learned I could get this if I was a minority, then, ok, I’m a minority!”
He had just returned from Mexico the day before Sandy, Cervantes continued, and made as many preparations as he could before the storm. He was successful in preserving his Aztec calendar and the tablecloths his mother had made by removing them from Chilangos, he continued. And while he could not open the restaurant after the storm, he could provide food for families in his neighborhood who were also devastated. And Guadagno was there to assist with his securing the FEMA loans that helped him open. “I like this lady,” he said calmly, ticking off the times he had called her cell phone. “I like that she gave me her phone number,” he said, “and told me she should, since I as a taxpayer pay for it. I like this lady.”
“I like this lady” became Cervantes’ mantra, as he said how pleased and surprised he was when Guadagno accepted his invitation to cut the ribbon for the opening of La Playa. “She did it again, she responded to my call. I like this lady.”
Monmouth County GOP Chairman Shawn Golden introduced Cervantes, and heaped his own praise on Guadagno as well, tracing his knowledge and friendship with her through the years she was an attorney, prosecutor, a Monmouth Beach commissioner, all before becoming Monmouth County’s first female sheriff and ultimately the states’ first Lieutenant Governor.
The GOP gubernatorial hopeful was warm and inclusive in her remarks, accenting that while New Jersey is making progress, her belief and her goal is “We can do better.” She cited her brother-in-law Pat Guadagno who has written a song guaranteed to be heard numerous times throughout her campaign reiterating that together, we can make New Jersey better.
Avoiding any mention of the current Governor, Chris Christie, Guadagno assured her listeners that she has been working ambitiously and consistently since first being elected to the state office, “without regard to the presence of TV cameras, reporters, or publicity. Referring to Christie’s proposed state house renovations, she said there is no need to turn the State House “into the Palace of Versailles.” In November, Christie said the structure, built in 1972, is crumbling and in need of immediate renovations because of the number of code violations and dangerous conditions which exist.
Guadagno said New Jersey can do better in lowering taxes, funding schools, cutting wasteful spending and curbing the heroin epidemic throughout the state, citing these as some of her major projects as Governor. “I’m all in,” she said, to thunderous applause and cheers.